"This is the worst situation hospitals in Washington state have been in compared to any prior point during the pandemic," said Washington State Hospital Association Executive Vice President Taya Briley, RN. "We are experiencing a crisis across our medical system and sadly now we've now just reached 1 million Washingtonians who have been infected with COVID-19."
Hospitals have stopped non-urgent procedures, she said.
Briley said there was a significant shortage of staff and hospital beds. She said hospitals are caring for hundreds of patients who do not need to be there, and instead should be in nursing homes, other long-term care settings, or at home with home-care support.
If those patients were moved out, she said, hospitals would have adequate staffing and space to manage the surge in cases with existing hospital resources.
Washington State Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah joined FOX 13 Morning News on Thursday to discuss the impact of the omicron variant:
Briley called on the state to address several issues including assessing patients faster, paying nursing homes more so that they can retain staff, and potentially deploying the Washington National Guard to perform non-clinical work.
She also said the "sizable majority" of hospitalized COVID patients are unvaccinated or have only one shot, and very few are boosted.
Gov. Jay Inslee had a press conference scheduled for 2:30 pm Thursday. Watch it live here and in the player below:
Latest COVID-19 data in Washington state:
- COVID-19 hospitalizations were at an average of 1,800 for the past week which just exceeded the state's previous high of 1,700 in Sept. 2021.
- Briley said there has been a 65% increase in COVID cases in the past week, averaging 226 new COVID hospitalizations each day and 12-20 COVID deaths in the last week.
- Of those in the hospital, the average number of patients on a ventilator was up 16% at 149 patients.
- Western Washington is experiencing the surge at the moment, but Eastern Washington is soon expected to see an uptick
Increase in vaccine breakthrough cases
The Washington State Department of Health on Thursday reported an increase in "vaccine breakthrough" cases as omicron causes a spike in overall COVID-19 cases statewide.
According to the data dashboard, current reporting shows a 43% increase in the number of breakthrough cases. There have been 123,365 vaccine breakthrough cases between Jan. 17, 2021 - Jan. 1, 2022. The majority of individuals with confirmed breakthrough cases experience mild or no symptoms. At least 3% of them were hospitalized.
State officials said these cases make up about 2.5% of the vaccinated population. More than 4.8 million people in Washington state are up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccines.
According to the state: "A person is considered to have vaccine breakthrough if they test positive for COVID-19 using a PCR test or antigen test and received their final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine more than two weeks prior to the positive test. Additional investigations help us better understand clinical and outbreak information when vaccine breakthrough happens."
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